- VA vows to hold employees accountable if allegations are true
- The federal department is defending itself against claims of potentially deadly delays
- CNN exclusively reported veterans dying while on wait list in Phoenix
Two Durham VA Medical Center employees have been put on administrative leave because of "inappropriate scheduling practices," the Department of Veteran Affairs said in a Monday statement.
The facility in Durham, North Carolina, is at least the fourth hospital accused of manipulating health care appointments.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has ordered an audit at all VA clinics, following months of CNN exclusive reporting about U.S. veterans who have died while they waited for treatment at VA hospitals.
"In preparation for this audit, VHA (Veterans Health Administration) Central Office learned on May 12 that a Durham VA Medical Center employee indicated that some employees at that facility may have engaged in inappropriate scheduling practices at some point between 2009 and 2012," the Monday statement read.
"VA takes any allegations about patient care or employee misconduct very seriously. If the allegations are true, the inappropriate behavior is unacceptable and employees will be held accountable."
The latest allegation comes as the federal department defends itself against claims of potentially deadly delays at other facilities throughout the nation, including claims of a secret wait list in Phoenix, which was first reported by CNN.
A VA scheduler in San Antonio said clerks scheduling medical appointments for veterans were "cooking the books" at their bosses' behest to hide the fact some had to wait weeks, if not months, for appointments.
Similarly, a scheduler at the VA clinic in Fort Collins, Colorado, which is managed by a Wyoming clinic, said employees were told to manipulate the system.
The VA's official policy is that all patients should be able to see a doctor, dentist or some other medical professional within 14 days of their requested/preferred date. Any wait longer than two weeks is supposed to documented. But many veterans end up waiting longer, and the delays are never reported, veterans and their advocates say.
Shinseki has been subpoenaed by the House Veterans' Affairs Committee.
CNN has submitted numerous requests for an interview with Shinseki; the secretary has refused them all.